TRENDING:

SPONSORED:

Long road for MLK congressional medal

Long road for MLK congressional medal
© Getty Images

Congress on Tuesday will honor Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King with the Congressional Gold Medal, marking the end of a decade-long process to bestow Congress's highest civilian honor on the nation's most prominent civil rights hero.

ADVERTISEMENT
The ceremony, also marking the 50th anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act, will feature speeches from Congress's top four leaders – Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidSenate holds two-hour Biden lovefest Dem senator threatens to slow-walk spending bill The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellCongress to clear path for Mattis Senate holds two-hour Biden lovefest Confirm Gary Richard Brown for the Eastern District of New York MORE (R-Ky), House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerBoehner: 'Thank God' I wasn't in the middle of election Ryan delays committee assignments until 2017 Lobbying World MORE (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), another civil rights icon, and Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeDems face choice of unseating Pelosi Insurgent Dems endorse Pelosi challenger Tim Ryan Junior Dems plot strategy as leadership vote looms MORE (D-Ohio), head of the Congressional Black Caucus, will also participate.

It's been a long time coming.

In 2004, Congress passed – and President George W. Bush signed – legislation presenting the Congressional Gold Medal to the Kings, "as the first family of the civil rights movement." The honor was posthumous for Martin Luther King, Jr. who was assassinated in 1968; Coretta Scott King was expected to accept the award on the couple's behalf, but grew ill before the ceremony could take place. She passed away in early 2006.

An updated bill, sponsored by Lewis, was passed unanimously by both chambers of Congress earlier this year. President Obama signed it into law this month.

Lewis's office cited no specific reason for the long delay in presenting the award to the Kings, but suggested those championing the award simply wanted to put some distance between Coretta Scott's death and the ceremony.

"It would have taken on a sadness that I think was not part of the original motivation," said Lewis spokeswoman Brenda Jones. 

Tuesday's ceremony will take place in the Capitol rotunda. After the ceremony, the medals will be given to the Smithsonian Institution.